'King Claudio': Ranieri hailed as a hero at home in Italy
ROME: The Italian Premier called it "insane." The country's national sports newspaper called him "King Claudio."
Claudio Ranieri was hailed as a national hero at home in Italy after coaching Leicester to a highly improbable English Premier League title.
"King Claudio," read the headline on the front page of Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday, above a statuesque image of Ranieri as the Roman emperor Claudius.
Leicester secured its first top-flight title without playing on Monday after second-place Tottenham drew at Chelsea 2-2.
Leicester was playing in the second tier only two years ago, came close to be relegated again last year, and started this season as a 5,000-1 outsider for the title.
For the first time in its 132-year history, Leicester is champion of England.
"It's the greatest achievement in the history of English football, and it was led by an Italian," Matteo Renzi, the Italian Premier, tweeted, adding a hashtag message of "insane" in Italian.
The 64-year-old Ranieri was known as a journeyman manager who never won any major titles in a career that saw him bounce from club to club, rarely staying more than a couple of seasons in one.
Before signing with Leicester, Ranieri had an embarrassingly short reign as the coach of Greece, and was fired following a loss at home to the Faroe Islands.
"I always thought that sooner or later I would win a league title," Ranieri told Italian state TV Rai late Monday. "I'm the same man who was sent away by Greece.
"The only dedication I want to make to everyone is to tell them to believe and give things a try, not only in football but in every area of life."
The son of a butcher and raised in Rome's working-class neighborhood of Testaccio, where the slaughterhouses were, Ranieri played briefly for his hometown club of Roma before spending most of his career as a defender for southern club Catanzaro.
As a manager, Ranieri won an Italian Cup at Fiorentina, the French second division with Monaco, and some other minor titles, but had never claimed a major domestic championship.
A Gazzetta editorial defined Ranieri as "The Normal One," a reference to his nemesis Jose Mourinho, the self-proclaimed "The Special One."
Earlier Monday, Ranieri flew to Rome to have lunch with his 96-year-old mother.
"He's one of us, one of the best of us," the Gazzetta said.
Ranieri was also praised by his peers.
"It's a masterpiece," said Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini, who led Manchester City to the English title in 2012. "An incredible and probably unrepeatable victory obtained against actual battleships."
Added Massimiliano Allegri, the manager of Italian champion Juventus: "It shows how much the Italian school of coaches is worth."